Towards the Visual Design of Non-Player Characters for Narrative Roles

Katja Rogers, Maria Aufheimer, Michael Weber, and Lennart E. Nacke. 2018. Towards the Visual Design of Non-Player Characters for Narrative Roles. In Proceedings of Graphics Interface 2018. Toronto, ON Canada. 154-161. doi:10.20380/GI2018.21


Non-player characters (NPCs) serve important functions for game narratives and influence player immersion. However, the visual design of NPCs for specific narrative roles is often approached by relying on designers’ previous experience or guesswork. We contribute to the understanding of player perception of narrative NPC roles in games, by proposing a methodological approach towards the visual design of NPCs to fit specific narrative roles. We demonstrate this approach through the visual design of characters for the three narrative roles of mentor, companion, and enemy. The results of an online survey (n=45) indicate trait expectations towards these narrative roles, and differences therein based on participant gender. Further, the characters were generally perceived as the targeted role based on visual design alone. This method of designing characters for narrative roles is beneficial to both game designers and researchers for further exploring effects of NPCs on player experience.